The first day of the conference kicked off with the World Dairy Leaders Forum, with some high-calibre speakers from leading companies such as Tetra Pak, Arla Foods, Mengniu, Land O'Lakes, Saputo and Fonterra.
While Theo Spierings of Fonterra tackled the issue of the recent botulism non-scare head on, the overall topics focused on the world dairy market, with the general consensus that ever-increasing demand from emerging dairy consuming nations is set to continue, in particular in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
China's rapidly growing dairy market
Yiping Sun, Chief Executive Officer for China Mengniu Dairy Company, charted the rapid progress Mengniu has made in becoming the world's 15th-largest dairy company. She highlighted the continuing fast growth of the Chinese dairy market and some of its unique characteristics - in particular its diversity (China contains 22 countries in terms of different consumer characteristics and behaviours).
Ms. Sun also highlighted the impact the internet is having, with online shopping of rapidly increasing importance in the retail environment and overall online sales growing by 32% per annum. The internet is changing consumer behaviour in China far quicker than in the West, even in small Chinese towns.
Mengniu plans to face the challenges of food safety, diverse demand and the digital age through an integration of global resources, as already borne out by its various JVs including those with major global players such as Arla Foods and Danone.
She finished her presentation with: "China will grow - are you ready?"
A poignant question indeed...